Two of next season’s top ranked teams will NOT be meeting during the upcoming regular season. That’s right, the Hoosiers and Wildcats could not come to an agreement to play this upcoming season – thus discontinuing their long standing rivalry.
The largest sticking point between the two schools appears to be the two coach’s disagreement over where the rivalry should be played. UK and Coach Cal wanted the game played at neutral sites (Freedom Hall and Lucas Oil Stadium). Well, Tom Crean wanted the game on-campus (Lexington and Bloomington). Neither school could come to an agreement and now it appears we may have lost rivalry for awhile.
“While we understand that such neutral site games could be quite lucrative, we think the series should be continued as it is, home and home,” Indiana A.D. Fred Glass said. “Playing on campus enables our students to attend these marquee games which we believe is a great component of the overall college experience.”
UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart had this to say:
“We are extremely disappointed in Indiana’s decision to end our annual men’s basketball series. We were under the impression that we were in continued negotiations with Indiana University on signing a two-year contract to play the annual game at neutral sites. After the NCAA championships, both schools verbally agreed in principle to play for two years at neutral sites and agreed to revisit campus sites upon completion of the two-year deal.”
So what to make of this. Hard to say. On the one hand, Indiana was the only team (during the regular season) to defeat the Cats. It was at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN and the atmosphere was beyond electric. Some will say this type of an environment scares Calipari and is the reason why he wants to move the game to a neutral site. It is his attempt to give Kentucky a better shot when they play teams with equal or better talent.
That’s a legitimate argument and I think that definitely plays into it. But, it’s obvious Barnhart and Calipari had another reason as well. Think about it, Rupp Arena holds 23,500 and Assembly Hall holds 17,400 – Lucas Oil Stadium can hold 70,000 fans. More tickets, means more fans, which equals more money. Kentucky wants the money for sure, and in true Calipari form the bigger the better for him and his program. Can’t say I blame them on this one, it’s Kentucky, the biggest and greatest college basketball program in the country – they should play on the biggest stage.
Now, it’s great to watch the Cats play at arenas such as Madison Square Garden and Ford Field, but I have to agree with the Hoosiers on this one. I would much rather see this game played in front of those jam packed arenas with the ruckus crowds. It can be argued that after that Indiana loss this past season, the Wildcats really took off. It made them angry and they used that loss as motivation for the rest of the season. At the very least, I believe tough rivalry games during the regular season really gives a team an idea of where they are and what they need to work on. It certainly worked for the Cats.
Even though they will not play this year; I don’t believe this rivalry is over, not for a second. There is too much tradition and too much money lost if the game is cancelled. Within a year they will agree on a compromise that is conducive to both sides, just wait. A little bit disappointing that they will not face off this season, since they are both top 5 teams, but if fans are lucky Indiana and Kentucky will meet somewhere in March again. For now, fans will have to wait.
Wildcats and Hoosiers have been playing each other every season since 1969.
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